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LUXEMBOURG, June 19 Greece must step up reforms,
the EU's top economic official said on Thursday, urging the
twice-bailed-out euro zone country with a debt nearly three
times the size of the EU limit to return to "a credible path".
After nearly crashing out of the euro in 2012, Greece's
economic fortunes have revived sharply in recent months. The
country's six-year recession is predicted to end this year, and
it posted a budget surplus before interest payments last year,
making it eligible for further debt relief from its partners.
There have, however, been some concerns that the reform
drive could slow following strong gains by anti-austerity
parties in European elections in May.
"I'm concerned about the slowing down of the process of
reforms in Greece," EU economic and monetary affairs Olli Rehn
said before a meeting of euro zone finance ministers in
"This will be discussed today and it's important that Greece
be able to come back to the path of serious economic reforms."
Greece needs to push through pension and other reforms to be
eligible for the final aid payments under its EU/IMF bailout,
which expires this year, and to position itself ahead of debt
relief talks scheduled for later this year.
Rehn did not spell out his concerns or specify any specific
reform he would be worried about. He said he trusted Greece
would "return to a credible path of economic reform shortly",
even if there could be some delays in meeting a number of
German finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble expressed no such
concerns about Greece when he arrived at the same meeting.
"Greece is doing significantly better in terms of finances
and growth than we expected when we agreed the second (bailout)
programme two years ago," Schaeuble told reporters.
"One has to be a little understanding that Greece constantly
has to take decisions that are difficult to implement, including
internally," he added, saying that Greece would be successful if
it continued on the path that it has taken over the past years.
Greece has enjoyed an abrupt turnaround in investor
sentiment as it steadies its finances and targets a return to
economic growth this year.
Athens is preparing to issue a small-sized, medium-term bond
in the coming weeks, following its successful return to debt
markets this year after a four-year exile, a senior finance
ministry official told Reuters on Tuesday.
The IMF estimates Greece faces a funding gap of 12.6 billion
euros starting in May 2015, though Athens believes any gap can
be covered through measures like new bond issues and leftover
bank bailout funds.
"(The situation in) Greece is not ideal, but Greece deserves
respect and support for its success," Schaeuble said.
(Reporting by Ingrid Melander and Annika Breidthardt; Editing
by Catherine Evans)